Political expert outlines 5 issues shaping midterm elections
With 5 weeks left in the midterm election cycle, Virginia Tech Political Science Professor Karen Hult says these key issues may affect both whether someone votes and for which candidate or party they vote:
Economy: Even though inflation appears to be moderating, higher prices for gas, food, and housing are top of mind for many. Usually this leads voters to hold the president and his party responsible. In this cycle, this helps Republicans. Related concerns about the likelihood of a coming recession also push in this direction. Meanwhile, despite the few direct connections between economic performance and the stock market, falling stocks underscore worries about the economy for some, especially higher income voters and those who are retired or closer to retirement.
Abortion rights: This became central in many races following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dobbs and the action in several states to further restrain access to legal abortion. In general, this is likely to mobilize younger voters and many women both to turn out to vote and to support Democrats. Republican efforts in many races to nominate female candidates who prioritize other matters, while on occasion articulating support for programs focusing on children and families.
Climate/Energy: This encompasses a host of issues. These include concerns that tend to help Democratic candidates such as the need for fuller and speedier action on local and global environmental problems (ranging from intensifying severe weather events like hurricanes and wildfires to greater support for sources of clean energy to local problems with water, air quality, and electricity generation). In contrast most Republican and some Democratic candidates and voters pay attention to the economic and community impacts of reducing fossil fuel exploration and production amplified by opposition to the specter of federal government regulation.
K-12 schools (likely more influential in U.S. House, state legislative, gubernatorial races): Concerns with public education include worries about student safety, transgender students, parental control over curriculum, and the post-pandemic quality of education.
U.S. standing in the world: This category includes a range of concerns including: desires to “make America great again;” worries about growing partisan and ideological polarization; musings about the country’s vulnerability to more authoritarian leaders; perceived threats to voting access and electoral security; appropriate role of the U.S. in the world and its responsibilities to U.S. citizens
About Hult: Virginia Tech political science professor Karen Hult teaches political science at Virginia Tech and its Center for Public Administration & Policy, with expertise in the U.S. Presidency, U.S. state politics, policy, and governance, and organizational and institutional theory. See her bio.
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